The Death of Death

In Christ’s earthly ministry, the Jewish people were expecting him to raise an army like any earthly kind would in order to resuscitate the Davidic kingdom (e.g., John 6:15). This was on their minds when Jesus entered Jerusalem in a royal “parousia” mounted on a donkey:

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (John 12:12-15; emphasis added)

But the kingdom which the Messiah was about to win through conquest (e.g., John 16:33) as he rode into Jerusalem was much, much bigger and far more important than a realm centered in a tiny country on earth. It is a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36), but instead a whole new creation.

Christ Jesus purchased life eternal for his people on the cross after that ride into Jerusalem! Put another way, by his own death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus put death to death and destroyed “the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14). Because he died and came back to life, Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades” (Rev 1:18) so that “death no longer has dominion over him” (Rom 6:9); he “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light” (2 Tim 1:10) not only for himself but also for all of his people. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:53-55)

Hence, Jesus tells grieving Martha surrounded by the stench of death (John 11:39): “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). This great victory over death which Christ won on the cross comes first in his own resurrection as firstfruits. The resurrection of Christ’s people who believe in him will follow at his Parousia when they hear his voice and emerge alive from their tombs (John 5:21-25). And that great event is when our victory over death will be manifested in resurrection.


This post is a book excerpt from The Majesty on High: Introduction to the Kingdom of God in the New Testament by S.M. Baugh. Please visit Amazon to order a copy of this new book.

Photo of S. M. Baugh

S. M. Baugh

S. M. Baugh is Professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary California where he has taught for over thirty years. He is the author of Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary and he has contributed to the ESV Study Bible and the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. 

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